The Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express 25 January 2020 – 35018 British India Line hauling 10+POB+47.746 Chris Fudge Exactly a month since Christmas and time for the first steam fix of the year. Christmas and New Year are a time for tradition but the traditional double-headed Black 5s on the first WCME have, in recent years, gone, replaced by a single loco (and a tail gunner). Although originally advertised as out via the WCML and back via the S&C; the trip was reversed and ran on the same path recently used by The Citadel and FS Xmas Dalesmans. On the drive over to Bolton light drizzle began to fall. After a few minutes wait on the platform I was able to answer the question; “Was it Bill or was it Ben?” It was (Big) Ben who “rang in” 2020, but much more importantly, it was BIL who “Wistled in” the start of the 2020 main line steam program. I took my seat at the front of the 3rd coach and 2L, with Mick Rawling driving and Rob Russell firing, we were underway; Roly Parker was the guard. It was almost certain that the diesel, used to haul the ECS to Man Vic, would still be attached to the rear and so it proved. It did provide ETH and the coach was “toasty warm”. BIL was soon into her stride, the “shush-shushing” of her exhaust was very audible through the partially open toplight. The climb from Bolton is gentle (5.2 miles of around 1/400r). Just before the summit we passed through Horwich Parkway at 56.5 (1½L). Speed gradually built, through Adlington (65 & ½L) and Chorley (63.4 & ¼E). We were running early and were held for 7½ min before Euxton Junction. Away 4½L we trundled up the FL and left the WCML at Farington Jn (5½L) but were held on the chord before Lostock Hall Jn for 3 min (to follow the Bpool N to York). We were now over 12L as we began the climb to Bamber Bridge (26.4 & 13¾L). Now faced with almost 4 miles of 1/100r speed began to build, halfway into the climb we crossed Gregson Lane at 40.5, with 45.2 at the summit. Very much at the lower end of my recorded speeds at Bamber Bridge; the speed at the summit was higher than expected. The low speed at Bamber Bridge would mean that the 47, even on notch 1, would have been taking its own weight plus that of around 2 coaches, as speed built towards the summit any push tapers off until the diesel does merely “take its own weight”. Could BIL have accelerated the train (including a 47 on notch 1) up the 1/100 from 26 at Bamber Bridge to 45 at the summit? Almost certainly, but did the diesel driver provide a bit extra at some point(s) in the climb? No/ possibly/ probably/ certainly – your choice; I’m probably going with probably. Up to 61 approaching Cherry Tree (12L) then slowing as we prepared for Blackburn, a 2 min wait short of the station before stopping in platform 2 (14½L) to pick up more passengers. We gained a few seconds and left to begin the much easier (northbound) climb to Wilpshire summit (41); there was a slight slip before the summit. Through Ramsgreave & Wilpshire (15½L) then dropping down the hill, running easily we had reduced the deficit to under 10L at Langho, under 8L at Whalley and 3½L at Horrocksford Jn. As indicated on RTT the planned water stop had been moved from Chatburn to Hellifield. We ran gently through the Ribble Valley but were 15E approaching Hellifield and were held for 19½ min before easing to a stop in the platform (7¼L). We would be taking water (from the hydrant across the DGL) and passengers were allowed out onto the platform. I had intended to ask the driver of the diesel how much the diesel had been used; sadly the 47 was way out of the platform. I did speak with Mick Rawling who said that the railhead conditions were ok, that he had asked for a nudge from the diesel to climb the curve into Hellifield and, that barring any unforeseen circumstances, the plan was that the diesel would be “notch 1” on the climb to Blea Moor. We left Hellifield (7½L), the weather was dull and grey; the boys and girls in the fields will struggle for contrast today. BIL set to work, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, went the ever quickening exhaust; through Long Preston at 43, a nicely judged 59.7 just before Settle Jn and 59.4 at the signal box (7L). Noisy (for BIL) as we climbed towards Settle, through the station (46.4 & 6¾L) but speed was down to 33.6 as we entered Stainforth Tunnel then rallied to 34.4 across Sheriff Brow Viaduct and up to 38.2 at Helwith Bridge. On the level, past the quarry, we reached 42.5 but were back down to 33.3 through Horton in R (9L), speed improved on the 2 brief easings to 37.4 but quickly fell back to 34.3 at Selside where light drizzle was hanging in the air. We held a steady 32 as we ran alongside the road, no need to brake at this speed, and on through Ribblehead (31.8 & 10¼L). Across Batty Moss and past Blea Moor SB (23.1 & 10L) a brief acceleration saw us enter the tunnel at 29. The time from Settle Jn SB to Blea Moor SB was 23m 01s and that to Blea Moor Tunnel S, 24m 58s. The times and modest speeds show little evidence of excess pushing by the diesel. Out of the tunnel and slow for the TSR before Arten Gill, where NR is now working on re-stabilising the bank on the right side of the track. Accelerating away from the TSR, although cloudy, the “million dollar view” appears on the left; the head of Dentdale. I must declare an interest as my 6th and 5th great grandparents are buried in the churchyard at Dent and less than a mile further down the Dale my 4 greats grandfather, Leonard Wistle was miller at, and latterly owned, the water mill in the hamlet of Gawthrop c1800 (to be continued). After the PSR at Dent we accelerated towards Garsdale (52.8 & 13L), out across Dandry Mire and the run up to Ais Gill (49.5 & 13L). Despite running at around 60 we failed to significantly reduce the deficit (Ormside 60.4 & 10½L). As BIL’s (large) tender had been filled at Hellifield it had been decided that the water stop at Langwathby was not needed and would be replaced by a “recreational stop” at Appleby. At Appleby I had another chat with Mick Rawling who told me that there were a couple of trickier moments but that everything had gone to plan. Now Oswald only has a drink (of alcohol) a couple of times a year, but was eager to participate in the post-festive “detox”, so I haven’t had an ice cream since Christmas Eve (I know that you will find this hard to believe, but it is true). When I told West Brom Tom that I wouldn’t be having an ice cream he reported me to the ICGF (Ice Cream Growers Federation) who, he tells me, have banned me from all ice cream emporia for 2 years (although this may be suspended – pending appeal). We left (theoretically) over 30L and gently made our way towards Carlisle, as we didn’t stop at Langwathby we were suddenly 15E. The skies brightened, there were glimpses of the sun and we ran unchecked into Carlisle, stopping in platform 3 (17½E). I took a walk to the back to check the number of the diesel and then to the front to admire BIL before strolling off to the Woodrow for lunch – fish and chips. No errands today but I had a wander around the centre before returning to station; BIL was already on the south end of the train and the 47 on the back. I had plenty of time for a chat with Mick Kelly (driver), Martyn Soames (fireman) and Peter James (guard). Time then to return to my seat now at the rear of the 10th coach; where the exhaust will not be heard! We left RT and before the late running Avanti (9M57). Mick soon had BIL working; we were up to 28.7 at the foot of the 3¾ miles of 1/131r, topped at 41.7, Next onto some easier grade (1/184r) where speed rose to 42.8 at Wreay and at the end of the short level (6.7 miles from Carlisle) we were up to 49.1. As we passed Southwaite (just beyond the start of 2.9 miles of 1/228r) we reached 51.2 and topped the 1/228r at 53.1. BIL was eased in preparation for our entry into Plumpton Loop where we stopped 1½L. 4 mins later the late running Avanti service passed (27L). In Plumpton Loop news soon spread that the DAR (Diesel Assistance Referee) was taking a look at the run from Carlisle. After what seemed like an age (isn’t it always?) it was announced that there was clear evidence of pushing inside/outside and from the box; the red card was brandished and the diesel was sent off for an early path. If only that was true! Back to business, the usual three trains (1M99 (5L), 1M15 (7L) and 9M47 (1L)) all sped by and ¼E we left heading for Shap, Carnforth and Man Vic. The loop is situated on level track; this continues for just under a mile before we arrive at the foot of some 1/186r (33.8). Next some gentle downhill then level track and up to 58.5 before we shot through Penrith at 63, station lights glowing as dusk was rapidly becoming night. We reached a max of 69.3 at Penrith S Jn, crossed Lowther Viaduct at 68.7 and the foot of the 1/125r at 67.9. As we passed the south end of Eden Valley Loop speed had fallen to 63. Past Thrimby Grange at 53.6, still almost 1¾ miles of 1/125r to go, speed held well and we started the easier 1/142r at 52.3 and improved to 53.3 as we reached the level stretch past Shap village. Up to 56.8 at Shap station and 57.7 as we hit the foot of the 1/106r, down to a minimum of 53.8 and, 10 coaches back, I passed the Summit Board at 59.1. The work was done, quickly down the hill with speeds in the high 60s to mid 70s with nothing higher than 77. We shot through Oxenholme (73.9 & 3¾E) and sped past the disused Milnthorpe (76.5 & 5¾E). We slowed as we approached Carnforth and were held briefly before Carnforth N Jn before crossing over into Carnforth (D&UGL) where we stopped 2½E. Around 45 mins to wait whilst BIL and support were detached and reversed back towards 10A and 37.706 was attached to the front. There was time for me to eat a slice of Christmas cake (no ice cream does not mean no sugar) and soon we were off. It was dark, the fun part was over; a stop at Preston to allow those who boarded at Blackburn to leave and next stop, Bolton where we arrived 2L. Back to the car park and the short drive home, arrived 19.37 (8E). Mrs W was bored; nothing on TV so it was sudoku and later a glass of wine. I started on this rubbish then had some supper and fell asleep watching the “nothing” that I had found on TV. My thanks to all who planned and operated this trip and to those who, despite the dismal conditions, took the time and trouble to record the day’s events and to post, photos and vids. Special thanks to the two drivers, Mick & Mick who are always willing to share information, to Martyn, a friendlier more enthusiastic man you couldn’t wish to meet and to Peter (@torgormaig) cast very much in the same mould. It was good to meet @keith6233 and @Mick45305 who is training to be a steward – this will ensure that he does more trips than me! I was seated at a table with another Peter, who is a regular traveller and a couple for whom this was their first trip; I suspect that there will be many more – they were excellent company. West Brom Tom kept us all in order (or caused trouble!?). This was certainly not a trip for the purists; from what I observed the diesel, for most of the time, adhered to the “notch 1 rule”. Even on notch 1, dependant on speed and gradient the diesel will push. Even when the diesel was “helping”, BIL was doing the lion’s share of the work. As promised, I did enjoy myself.